"Young Sharks" elementary school curriculum sharpens business, creative skills

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A third-grade girl sells artwork at her art stand.
A third-grade entrepreneur sells her and her friends' artwork at her art stand.

A UM-Flint effort has trained area teachers on how to teach entrepreneurial skills to their elementary school students.

More than two dozen teachers in Grand Blanc and Flint have taken the training so far. It was designed by UM-Flint University Outreach director Paula Nas, and Terry Groves, a former public school curriculum developer who has also taught classes within the university's economics department. The Office of University Outreach and the EDA University Center for Community and Economic Development facilitated the workshops.

"We saw this as a great opportunity to help young kids develop the entrepreneurship mindset," said Nas about the Young Sharks program they developed.

They are in discussions with schools with districts in nearby counties about holding the entrepreneur and economics workshops for their teachers. The program received funding through a Charles Stewart Mott Foundation grant.

Within the curriculum, students develop their business ideas and research funding options and feasibility, Nas said. Students are encouraged to look at entrepreneurship within the realms of invention, service, performing art, and visual art.

Groves said the curriculum, aligned with state social studies content standards, gives students the platform to think creatively.

"It's a good thing for them to know they have the ability to think through and address a problem," she said.

UM-Flint will host the students for a Young Sharks Business Expo and Pitch Competition on December 3, which will give students the chance to showcase and communicate their ideas. Students from 15 classrooms have signed up for the event, with more than 400 students expected to participate, Nas said.

Christina Ostrander, a teacher at Mason Elementary School in Grand Blanc, took the training and has incorporated it into her classroom.

"This brings that sense of creativity and play into the classroom," Ostrander said. "You're building and learning and producing. The aspect that the kids can go outside of normal paper and pencil schoolwork and having amazing creativity with this is pretty cool."

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